By Andrew Rosthorn

Hamilton, Bermuda, Spring 1935. The Wall Street banker Cornelius Shields, known in yacht racing circles as "The Silver Fox of Long Island Sound", is arriving in Bermuda to helm the six-metre sloop Challenge in the King Edward VII Gold Cup. He has claimed that Challenge sails "like a winged witch". But from the deck of the Furness Withy liner Queen of Bermuda he sees something that will change his life for ever. A quarter of a mile away across the water he observes an unfamiliar six-metre sloop of rare beauty, out at sea practicing for the big races. Shields cannot get her fine sheer and her lovely overhangs out of his mind. Ashore in Hamilton he finds that she is called Saga and that she was designed and built far away on the Skagerrak in Norway, for the Trimingham brothers, Kenneth and Eldon, owners of Bermuda's famous department store and importers of those London-made Daks, the abbreviated trousers that made Bermuda famous.

The original Saga, winner of the Sir Thomas Lipton Cup at Port Madison Bay in Puget Sound in 2002, under repair in 2011 at Jespersen Boat Builders, Sidney, British Columbia.

Corny Shields looked closely at Saga and the way her builder and designer Bjarne Aas had used full-length Oregon pine planks glued on edge so finely that her topsides shone "like a porcelain bath tub". Shields liked the way she handled - and out there in Bermuda, during the Great Economic Slump, this millionaire broker had a rather democratic idea. What if the escalating cost of yacht racing could be tamed? What if good helmsmen and good racing crews could compete on the fairest terms without the richest owners using their sheer wealth to win? What if an American syndicate could place an order for a dozen yachts, exclusively from the B.J. Aas yard in Fredrikstad and all to be built alike. Built a little shorter than Saga with a loftier rig, including a shelter and a cabin and all to be shipped from Norway to America as soon as possible. Corresponding with Bjarne Aas during the winter of 35-36, Shields kept the project a secret. Knowledge was restricted to his friend Egbert Moxham and his brother Paul Vincent Shields, founder of Shields & Co one of the few broking firms to survive the Wall Street crash and an influential reforming ally of President Roosevelt during the New Deal. The secrecy was designed to avoid collapsing the value of the existing fleet of 29ft Sound Interclub racers. Paul V. Shields named the new project the International One Design: 33ft long, 21ft 5in on the waterline, 6ft 9in beam, 5ft 4in draught with a 2-ton lead keel, a 45-foot mast and 426 sq ft of sails. When they eventually showed the plans to the Sound Interclub racers every single owner agreed to join the syndicate and assembled enough cash to buy 25 yachts at 2670 dollars each, delivered in New York complete with sails, spars, running rigging, cradle, cargo insurance and ocean freight from Fredrikstad. The first four yachts arrived at New York in December 1936. Corny rigged his yacht immediately, named her Aileen after his daughter and sailed her home from City Island to Larchmont Yacht Club in Christmas Week.

It had all happened so quickly that by Christmas 1936 "The Silver Fox" had become the very first man to sail an IOD: "I don't think I've ever had a more joyous day on the water. The wind was from the northeast, light in the morning and then stronger at mid-day, so we had a chance to try her out under a variety of conditions. The boat was a delight to handle, and balanced perfectly. I felt great satisfaction at this - the planning and hope and care hadn't been in vain."

Greyhound, crewed by owners Mike Posey, Lucinda Herrick and Will Fiske in Fishers Island Sound, between New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

A freighter from Norway delivered seven more Internationals to Bermuda in January 1937 and Greyhound herself left Fredrikstad in 1937, arriving in the USA in time for the 1938 racing at Northeast Harbor in Maine. By that year, during the Munich Crisis in Europe, there were already groups of IOD yachts racing in Long Island Sound, Bermuda, Marblehead in Massachusetts and at Cowes in England, where the designer and writer Uffa Fox found the shape of the IOD reminded him of the European smelt Osmerus eperlanus a sleek and fast relative of the salmon. Lines "as clean as a smelt's and each and every line perfect for its purpose."

Just before Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, initiating U-boat warfare in the Atlantic, Bjarne Aas shipped his last pre-war International to Bermuda. They named her War Baby. She is still with us. In 2005 she was being rebuilt by Bill Lutwick at his yard in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia.

Aas is believed to have excavated a pit in the boatyard and buried the irreplaceable International One Design jigs during the 1940-45 German occupation of Norway.


Bjarne Aas, yacht designer and builder [1886-1969]      Cornelius Shields, yachtsman and banker [1895-1981]

Dayton's Guide To Yachts once described the IOD as "the classiest OD of all. A couple of feet shorter on the waterline than a big six metre but with 9 inches more beam.". Greyhound, one of the original 1937 IODs, was first raced at Northeast Harbor on Mount Desert Island in Maine in the 1938 season. Rockefellers and Astors owned summer houses on the remote island, often described as "Philadelphia on the Rocks" and still home to the world's largest fleet of IODs. In the 1980s Greyhound was owned by Norm Cressy and Bruce Dyson, who recorded her 1999 refit with a grp skin on her Norwegian pine hull in the IOD World Class News for winter 1990. In summer 2011, she was at Mystic, Connecticut, when owners owners Mike Posey, Lucinda Herrick and Will Fiske decided to sell her to William Oliver, an English member of the St Mawes Sailing Club in Cornwall, where seven IOD 33 were already racing in a British class revival that had begun in the 1970s. On August 10 the yard team at Mystic Shipyard shrink-wrapped Greyhound, packed her on a slave trailer and shipped her by truck to the Port Newark Auto Terminal in New Jersey, where she rolled inside ACL's fast transatlantic ship Atlantic Companion, arriving in Liverpool on August 29. After clearing customs Sealand Boat Deliveries delivered her by lorry to Falmouth Boatyard at 08:00 on September 1, just 21 days in transit from Connecticut to Cornwall.

Griff Rhys Jones's celebrated Rhodes 45 sloop UNDINA alongside at Cherbourg, bound for Les Voiles de St Tropez.

Lifting UNDINA to a super-low trailer for a BTX move from Cherbourg to St Tropez in 2007.

Undina 2007

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